Monday, March 17, 2014


MY LIFE WAS RECENTLY part of a study requirement by a student of a state university in Metro Manila and one of the questions asked of me is about what I see in the bushcrafters of today? Frankly, there are, I replied, only a few non-indigenous Filipinos who practice bushcraft and I consider them as precious jewels. Although I see this number gaining ground every year, thanks to social networking sites, but, deep inside, I just want them to be as few as possible.

Yes, these local bushcrafters are so few yet their knowledge about real-life survival skills are irreplaceable. They are misunderstood and disdained by the mainstream outdoor crowd because of their propensity to carry real knives (instead of the closet kind) and their seemingly audacious methods which ran contrary to the principles of the Leave No Trace which everybody seems to know by heart but never understanding the very spirit by which it was created.

Bushcrafters do not come to a mountain to eat pre-cooked food and they are not in a hurry either. Time is of no measure to them and their day goes on its course without having to push themselves hard and be at places dictated by a piece of paper. They stay low and see a lot of nature that conventional backpackers do not know about. Yes, these bushcrafters appreciate nature as much as you do but they embrace it with much reverence and not by spur-of-the-moment realizations exhibited by tourists.

They go to the same places over and over again and does not mind the familiarity or the tedium of it. They only take what they need and polish off their skills to perfection with what few things they have. They absorb every lore of these places and they relish at the prospect of a companionship with the campfire if night comes and a kettle of hot coffee by the side. It is always a pleasure for them to just be by themselves or with just the right people.

I am a bushcrafter and I am with another of my kind, Glenn Pestaño, and we are at the very place where the recent Outlaw Bushcraft Gathering was held two weeks ago. Today is September 15, 2013 and it is a hot day in Sayao, Sibonga, Cebu. Two novices – Justine and Faith – also came and they hiked the route with me from Napo, Carcar just like the last time. Today, we will just be polishing off our skills, testing knives and the two beginners will learn from us.

I carry a prototype model of an AJF Gahum knife to test its versatility and handling. It is hand-made by a gentleman from Lilo-an and he choose me to do all the torture on his creation except shooting it insanely to drive a point. Aside that, Glenn had been dangling a Seseblade Sinalung knife for me – a gift coming from Dr. Arvin Sese himself – urging me to make me come and get it. I will have that soon once I will arrive at the camp along with another of Doc Sese’s gift – a money belt. I did arrive, sweat and all, and I claimed the gifts. Hmmm...lovely!

When I have recovered from my euphoria, I go down a small valley and harvest a pole of water bamboo. I will need it to teach Faith and Justine how to chop a piece of bamboo and how to make cooking pots. From these natural pots, I will teach them the technique of cooking rice in it. Aside that, I will show them what fire tinder to collect and how to arrange firewood before starting a fire by conventional means.

I use the full force of the AJF Gahum on a mature bamboo pole and carry the best part up the campsite and go back again to the bamboo grove to collect dried pieces of bamboo for my fire. Glenn, meanwhile, devised a cooking set-up using three sticks of bamboo and some stakes. The bigger stick is used to hang a pot over a fire.

After I had done my lessons with Faith and Justine, both went with Glenn for another lesson about how to dress a chicken. I tended the fires for two conjoined segments of bamboo which I made as cooking vessels and cook simultaneously both with rice. I also cook rice on a conventional pot hanged from Glenn’s tripod for insurance since, I believe, we all will be having a good appetite owing to the promise of eating free-rein chicken!

After finishing my cooking, I went to see how all are doing with their chicken. It is already 1:00 PM and, I think, they may be in the final touches of the chicken soup. When I arrive, they have not yet started the cooking. I take over by partitioning evenly some chicken parts and retrieve the head, the feet and the food sac, which were condemned as wastes, and cleaned it thoroughly before mixing it with the rest.

Since we don’t have the luxury of many ingredients, I use all to the limit like the cooking oil, garlic, the lower half of spring onions and green pepper. Then I put the pieces of chicken and let it roll back and forth in the scant oil during frying and, as it becomes brownish, I pour a quart of water and let it boil. I add lemon grass, spring onion leaves and pieces of ginger. For flavor, I shake some white pepper powder on the soup and two teaspoons of salt. No MSG. Cooking tasteful food outdoors is done with a right frame of mind and not by artificial means.

Anyway, there was a lot of food for everyone and we even shared it with a family living nearby in “boodle-fight” fashion. We deserve that dining style because we are bushcrafters and not some staged activity of conventional backpackers whose instincts follow an almost corporate flavor. I go for the head, the de-scaled feet, the opened food sac, a part of a liver and a good piece of a thigh to reward myself of the effort and energy lost to the morning hike, the foraging of bamboo and the cooking.

The rest of the afternoon are spent on conversations aided by the juice of a fermented coconut wine. We wind down the activity by checking on our blades. I am smiling because I have done well with my test of the AJF Gahum and found out that it needs some brushing up. Well, this piece would likely go back to its owner who will study its improvements based on my findings and recommendations. I am also smiling because I have a Seseblade. This, too, will be subject to my own brand of torture.

We leave Sayao for Napo following the morning route and transfer to a tricycle for Ocaña where the national highway is found. We doused our thirsty throats with cold soda drinks from a store and waited for a Ceres Liner bus. Two full ones passed by but the third accommodated all five of us inside on the seats. It was another quality day that only hard-to-the-core gentlemen of the outdoors would understand and relish. Not only that, the newcomers learned a lot with which knowledge would be second nature when SHTF comes.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

1 comment:

Ryan said...

Great article. I loved it.